In mid-May 1944, after a period of bridge and mine training, rest and maintenance, as well as planning for the Liri Valley operation, the 5th Canadian Armoured Division started moving forward to the Hitler Line for their first divisional level battle of the war.
The attack began on the morning of 23 May with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division opening the Hitler Line at a cost of 890 Canadians were killed or wounded - the most for the Canadian Army in the entire Italian Campaign. The 5th Canadian Armoured Division then struck forward with two battle groups to cross the Melfa River and secured a bridgehead by 26 May. Once out of the Melfa bridgehead, the 11th Infantry Brigade with tank support broke out and exploited north towards Frisinone via Ceprano.
Throughout the battle, Engineer time was punctuated by movement, waiting, more movement, and more waiting. Crossings were built and mines were lifted. Sapper patrols went well behind enemy lines. Men were killed and many wounded. Two members of the 10th Field Squadron were decorated for bravery – Corporal J.D. Laloge, MM and Sapper H.E. Anstie, MM.
From History of the RCE Vol II p. 209
"During the 26th, infantry of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division had reached the upper Liri, consolidating on high ground opposite Ceprano. This advance brought the 10th Field Squadron another two Military Medals; one was awarded to Corporal J. D. Laloge and the other to Sapper H. E. Anstie, both with a "Honey' tank party. When the reconnoitring armour was stalled by a steep-banked gully around which there was no apparent route, the banks of the gully had to be ramped by explosive and the sappers dismounted to get on with the task. The site was under machine-gun and other fire. During the placing of the charges one enemy post, some 300 yards away, caused particular annoyance. Anstie returned to the light tank and manned its machine gun. He had to expose himself to bring the gun to bear but he silenced the bothersome post, killing its three occupants. His efforts had much to do with Laloge's successful completion of the work and with the way being made clear. That night patrols crossed the Liri River below Ceprano and found that the enemy had vacated the town."
Harry Edgar Anstie was born and raised on Prince Edward Island. He died of a heart attack on 27 November 1970 at the age of 50 years. He is buried in St. Mary's Catholic Church Cemetery, Montague, PE.
On the morning of the 26th May 1944, Sapper Anstie was one of a party of Engineers in a "Honey" tank attached to "A" Squadron, 5th Canadian Armoured Regiment (8th New Brunswick Hussars) who were advancing west towards Ceprano. During the advance, the tanks were held up by a stream with very steep banks around which there was no apparent exit and which was covered by enemy infantry and machine-gun posts on the far bank. The Engineer party immediately dismounted, prepared and laid the necessary charges and blew a diversion which enabled the tanks to get ahead without further delay and clear out the enemy posts, thus enabling the infantry battalion whom they were supporting to continue the advance. During the time that this work was being carried out, the party was being subjected to heavy and accurate machine-gun fire from an enemy post approximately 300 yards away which wounded the Corporal in charge. Sapper Anstie, without hesitating, ran to the machine gun mounted in his "Honey" tank and, standing up in full view of the enemy, opened fire and silenced the enemy post, killing all three occupants.
This soldier demonstrated great fortitude and courage and by his immediate action enabled the diversion to be made and the tanks to cross the river and clear the way for the following infantry.